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Published April 30th 2014

How Airlines Can Use Social Listening to Boost Online Reputation

Are airlines the black sheep of the travel and hospitality industry? Well, that seems to be the case according to recent research from Harris Interactive.

That comes as no surprise as most of us have experienced flight delays, unsatisfactory customer service, lousy seating or lost luggage.

However, despite these inconveniences, customer demand has been growing, transforming the market into a both remarkably profitable and hugely competitive one.

Over three billion flights are expected to take place in 2014.


The challenge for airlines is differentiating themselves in a marketplace where pricing is crucial, as well as making sure that customer expectations are met.

This can often be problematic due to the nature of the industry: fast-paced, intense and prone to delays and changes.

Giving people the opportunity to provide feedback and share thoughts regarding their travel experiences can be seen as a PR nightmare, but from our perspective, it’s an opportunity for brands to gain a competitive advantage by listening to online conversation and adapting accordingly.
For instance, a study from RightNow Technologies (see chart above) indicates that 85% of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for a superior experience.

So, contrary to the common assumption that pricing is all that matters, customer service and a better quality overall experience is so important that customers are actually willing to spend more on their flights.

Additionally to this key insight, social media now allows businesses to gather intelligent data regarding customers’ experience, understand their concerns and take action.

In our latest report, Social Listening and the Tourism Industry, we analysed online chatter around twelve global airlines and the most popular topics of conversation in relation to in-flight experiences were: seating (38.49%), service (16.58%), special requirements (18.2%) and food (15.73%).

Customer conversation -BW with WM

So, how can airlines benefit from this kind of information?


Well, if looking to increase customer satisfaction and to improve services, a clear idea of where to target your efforts can certainly help generate greater impact and lead to guaranteed success.

Another key area we looked at is common post-flight topics, which included punctuality (33.10%) or brand loyalty (31.94%).
post flight - BW with WM
Positive post-flight buzz can be recognised as good publicity for airlines, increasing brand loyalty and driving up the number of leads for future purchases.

On the other hand, negative mentions ought to be perceived as lost opportunities, or indeed much worse: detractors.


Do socially active airlines have a better reputation?


Brandwatch research reveals that indeed, airlines with an effective social media presence garner a much more positive customer service reputation than those that are less active.
customer service -BW with WM
While it is indisputable that a traveler’s customer service experience doesn’t only build upon an airline’s social media activity, the distinct trend between the two clearly alludes to a meaningful correlation that emphasises the benefits of being active.


Our recommendations for social listening


  • Listen to online chatter around your brand and align your marketing activity accordingly
  • Slice and dice your data into specific topics for a better understanding of the quality of your services
  • Use alerts and workflow features to process and react to mentions in real-time


If you’d like to get a holistic understanding of the Airlines sector as well as Accommodation and Travel Agents, feel free to take a closer look. We’d love to hear your feedback!

Download the full report


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